An Iowa appeals court has dismissed an appeal from Iowa State University that would have overturned an earlier ruling regarding a campus sexual assault accusation.
In May 2012, Yempabou "Bubu" Palo, an ISU basketball player, was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student. Palo and another man, Spencer Cruise, had been friends with the accuser — listed in court records as H.B. — since high school. Palo and H.B. had engaged in sexual activities years earlier.
H.B. accused both men of raping her, and Palo was criminally charged with second-degree sexual abuse. But after an investigation — which included the discovery of fabricated evidence — the charges were dropped. H.B. had claimed that the blouse she had worn the night of the alleged attack had been torn during the encounter but that she had lost it. About seven months after the alleged incident, she found the torn blouse, but said she had washed it a week after the event.
A forensic expert determined the blouse had been torn after it was washed. That, along with several inconsistencies in H.B.'s story, led to the charges being dropped against Palo and Cruise. Despite this, ISU conducted its own investigation using a lower standard of evidence. An administrative law judge led the hearing against Palo, but determined the charges to be unfounded.
H.B. appealed the decision to ISU president Steven Leath. Using the same evidence that led to criminal charges being dropped and a campus judge finding in favor of the accused, Leath determined that Palo was actually responsible for violating the school's sexual misconduct policy.
Leath didn't suspend Palo but did sanction him to "indefinite deferred suspension," suspended him from the basketball team and prohibited him from participating in all other campus sports and ordered him to attend sexual assault and alcohol awareness training.
Palo appealed the new decision and requested a stay on his prohibition from participating in sports. ISU's board of regents denied the appeal and the request for a stay.
Palo then took his case to the district court, which temporarily granted Palo's stay.
"In its ruling, the district court noted President Leath issued his decision five days after the deadline that would have allowed Palo to transfer to a different school to take advantage of his remaining year of athletic eligibility," the appeals court wrote. "The court found 'irreparable injury' would occur if Palo was not allowed to return to the team for his final year of eligibility. The court also found that since H.B. had graduated and left the state of Iowa, granting the stay would not interfere with ISU's ability to protect H.B."
The district court found insufficient evidence to support ISU's finding of responsibility. Palo was allowed to return to the team and finish the 2014 season. His eligibility to participate expired at the end of the spring 2014 term, when Palo was set to graduate.
Because Palo has since graduated, the appeals court ruled that the issue is now moot.